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Best ULEZ exempt cars 2024

  • What are the best ULEZ exempt cars?
  • We test and rate the contenders
  • Find a ULEZ exempt car for sale

If you regularly drive in London, it's crucial to have a car that is ULEZ-exempt so you avoid the £12.50 daily Ultra Low Emission Zone charge.

If you live in central London and drive frequently, you’ve almost certainly checked to make sure your car is ULEZ-compliant. If it isn't, we’ve compiled the best ULEZ-exempt cars that won’t leave you too out of pocket. 

The ULEZ is aimed at discouraging diesels in the capital, so - generally - diesels registered after September 2015 and petrols registered after 2005 are exempt. All hybrids and electric cars avoid the daily fee, too.

If you're looking to save money on a ULEZ compliant car, check out the best new and used car deals we've found online.

Best ULEZ exempt cars 2024

Ford Fiesta

Year launched: 2017

Ford Fiesta Review 2023 Driving

There’s a couple reasons the Ford Fiesta is so popular. Firstly, it comes in a huge range of trims and engines to let buyers build the exact car that suits them. There’s even posh Vignale, beefed up Active and hot hatch ST versions. Secondly, it’s a corker on the road. The mix of Ford’s dynamic handling, with a decent amount of space and practicality make the Fiesta a formidable rival. As long as you don’t mind a mainstream choice, it’s great,

There’s reasonable space for two kids (three at a push) in the back of the Fiesta - but adults will feel cramped. As for boot space, the Ford Fiesta sits in the middle of the small car pack for practicality. What it does offer is a refined drive to rival the likes of the Volkswagen Polo for comfort, and the Audi A1 for style (in higher trims).

The Fiesta dominates the small car market in handling and ride quality, even on battered British roads. There also isn’t a bad choice of engine or gearbox in range. The entry-level 1.1-litre petrol is good around town but a little slow on motorways, while the 1.0-litre Ecoboost turbo petrol is excellent in all guises (100PS, 125PS and 140PS). For those covering bigger distances, Ford has a pair of 1.5-litre turbodiesel engines available in the Fiesta. The 120PS would be our pick, but both are decent and all engines are ULEZ exempt.

Skoda Octavia

Year launched: 2013

Skoda Octavia (2013-2020) Review: exterior front three quarter photo of the Skoda Octavia

The previous generation Skoda Octavia - which was replaced by a new version in 2020 - is excellent. In fact, it offers the best blend of practicality, refinement and performance for the money. It isn’t the most exciting choice, nor the most sophisticated, but it proves that something great value doesn't have to feel cheap.

As a do-it-all family car it's hard to beat, but some drivers will struggle with its sheer size. Luckily for used buyers, there are no bad engine options for the Octavia. The older 1.4-litre TSI petrol is just as smooth and even nippier than the new 1.5-litre motor, just not quite as efficient on fuel. If you regularly take long trips or want to use the car for towing, the 2.0-litre TDI diesel will be a better bet. Just make sure to check the car on TfL’s ULEZ checker.

We think SE trim offers the strongest value. The interior is smart, with a surprisingly high quality feel to the materials, plus, there’s loads of kit. But the Octavia is a slightly older car, so most of the latest safety equipment is optional, with key equipment such as automatic emergency braking, a reversing camera and adaptive cruise all costly extras.

Toyota Prius

Year launched: 2016

Used Toyota Prius (2016-2023) Review: rear dynamic

The Toyota Prius won’t win any style competitions, but it’s an accessible hybrid for anyone who wants practicality, low running costs and a five-year warranty. Despite being a pioneer, there are arguably more appealing alternatives out there now - like Toyota’s own Corolla Hybrid. But there’s lots of space up front and the boot is 297 litres, or 343 litres if you opt for a tyre repair kit rather than a space saver wheel.

Under the bonnet, there’s a 1.8-litre petrol engine working with an electric to self-charge the Prius - which means there are no plugs or charging required – though Toyota does offer a plug-in version. It’s refined and easy to drive around town, with the battery working best at low speeds. It isn’t sporty or particularly fun, but it does exactly what it says on the tin.

The interior isn’t quite as good, but there’s a good amount of standard equipment. We’d opt for the Business Edition trim to get a head-up display, auto dimming rear-view mirror, blind spot monitoring and a wireless charging area for your phone. Business Edition models are also plusher inside.

Volkswagen Golf

Year launched: 2013

Volkswagen Golf 2013

The Golf here is the previous generation, with this 2013 incarnation replaced in 2020. However, it’s arguably the best hatchback on the market - and now that it’s been replaced, there are very good used deals despite its high asking price from new. Like the Ford Fiesta (but bigger), there aren’t many people the Golf isn’t right for. The range of engines and model variants is enormous, with a premium quality and comfort to boot.

The Golf may cost a little bit more than many alternatives, but even the basic model is a fantastic choice. The range of petrol engines are all pretty good, though we like the 1.4 TSI ACT and 1.5 TSI Evo (from 2017 onwards models) best. The 1.6 diesel isn’t the fastest, but is a bit smoother and quieter than the more powerful 2.0-litre. Even so, we’d still pick the 2.0 TDI 150 due to its combination of performance and fuel economy. If you’re opting for a diesel, make sure you buy a later model and check TfL’s ULEZ checker, though.

As for model trims, we like the sporty R-Line and the value-packed Match versions. The Ford Focus is a less premium, but cheaper rival - while the SEAT Leon is basically a Golf underneath, with sportier styling and lower prices. The Skoda Octavia shares underpinnings with the Golf as well, offering even more space and practicality.

Audi A3 Sportback

Year launched: 2013

Audi A3 Sportback (2013-2020) Review: exterior front three quarter photo of the Audi A3 Sportback

If you like the Volkswagen Golf, but want something posher - the Audi A3 Sportback is an excellent choice. It looks great, has a brilliant interior that’s ageing well and comes with plenty of standard kit for the money. It’s also great to drive.

The 2013 Audi A3 Sportback tends to be popular among those looking for something with a bit more status than a Ford Focus. All A3s are well equipped but it’s the S line and Black Edition models that catch your eye thanks to sporty looks. If you’re not fussed about that, the entry-level SE and SE Technik models make a lot of sense. Although, if you want things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you’ll need a later example (mid-2016 onwards).

Most of the engines are refined and economical (we advise that you avoid the bigger 1.8- and 2.0-litre petrols). The diesel engines were the most popular in the A3 Sportback when it was new, with the 2.0-litre offering a relaxing and economical driving experience. If you do want a diesel, make sure you choose a later model and check it’s ULEZ compliant before putting any money down. However, if you don’t cover mega miles, buy the 1.4-litre (and later 1.5-litre) petrol.

Toyota Corolla

Year launched: 2019

Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla has been around for many years in various forms, but the latest all-hybrid model is the best one yet. It's got a great interior and comes very well-equipped across the range. It's right up there with top rivals like the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic.

Its power comes from one of two petrol-electric hybrid system – with either a 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre petrol engine – which helps to keep emissions low. We'd go for the 1.8-litre model, as it has all the performance you're likely to need, and comes with lower running costs. A more powerful version of the 1.8 was introduced in 2023.

Whichever engine you go for, the Corolla is a comfortable, well-made and spacious car with a fantastic reputation for reliability. All trim levels have a good level of equipment, but we think the Design model strikes the best balance between features and cost.

SEAT Ibiza

Year launched: 2017

SEAT Ibiza Front View

Comfort and refinement are two of the SEAT Ibiza’s biggest strengths. Add in a dash of style, a range of good engines and more space inside than rivals like the Kia Rio - and the Ibiza is a big winner. But (and it’s a but that’ll put some drivers off), if you want a good Ibiza, you have to be prepared to spend on extra equipment as standard equipment levels are lacking.

As far as engine choice goes, we’d opt for the same 1.0-litre TSI petrol you’ll find in the Polo, which comes in 95Ps and 115PS power outputs. For drivers who do over 12,000 miles per year, the most-efficient option is the 1.6 TDI (diesel) - which produces 95PS and claimed economy peaks at 61.4mpg. It also won’t require you to pay the daily ULEZ charge.

Disappointingly, you have to tick a few options to get things like DAB audio, touchscreen navigation and cruise control, which increases the price. On the plus side, the boot is large and you get a smooth, refined ride. If you prioritise refinement and practicality over driving dynamics then this will very much be the small car for you. Like-for-like, the Ford Fiesta represents better value - although, the SEAT is more practical with more space on offer.

Honda Civic

Year launched: 2017

Used Honda Civic (2017-2021) Review front interior

There’s lots to like about the Honda Civic, particularly if you spend a lot of time driving. The looks certainly divide opinion, though we like its style, and it’s comfortable. It’s also got one of the biggest boots in the class, making it perfect for young families.

If you’re a high-mileage driver, you’ll want to go for the impressively economical 1.6-litre diesel but for everyone else, the entry-level 1.0-litre turbo will be plenty. We don’t rate the automatic gearbox as highly as the manual, but that’ll really depend on whether you like to cruise on the motorway or feel a bit more engaged on the move.

Hondas are known for being reliable, so you should have no trouble with the Civic. You also get that peace of mind, comfort, practicality and style in an affordably priced package. Obviously it isn’t perfect. The interior is rather drab and rear visibility is shocking. Entry-level trims are poorly equipped and the infotainment system is not up to scratch compared to rivals, but if you can handle those issues - we recommend the Honda Civic.

BMW i5

Year launched: 2023

BMW i5 Review 2023

The BMW i5 is, in just about every aspect except its name, an all-electric version of the 5 Series. That means it's a very accomplished, premium and desirable large saloon car that mixes driver enjoyment with stylish design and excellent comfort levels. And of course, being all-electric, it's free from ULEZ charges.

This is a large car at more than five metres long, which is worth keeping in mind if you'll be wending your way through London's tight streets, but it's agile when it needs to be. It's quick too, with two different versions to choose from and either 340PS or a massive 601PS. That makes it entertaining when you head out of the city and onto the open road.

The interior is worthy of the even larger i7 – great design, top-notch materials and acres of space for driver and passengers alike. If you're worried about boot space, the i5 Touring estate is due in 2024. We'd opt for the eDrive 40 model, which might be the base-spec i5, but it's so well-eqipped that you shouldn't want for anything. The M60 performance model is also great, but it's a good deal more expensive.


Year launched: 2022

MG4 EV Review 2024

It's not overstating things to say that the MG4, at the time of writing, is the best budget electric car you can buy. And that's no mean feat – trying to keep the price of a car packed with relatively new technology isn't easy, but MG has done a brilliant job with this great-value hatchback.

It might be low on price but the MG4 is packed with features. It's a distinctive car (especially in orange) and those striking looks continue inside. It might not be quite as spacious as other cars of a similar size, but it's a darn sight cheaper to buy. You can choose from a 51kWh battery that will give you a range of up to 218 miles, or there's a Long Range model that will manage up to 281 miles per charge.

Alternatively, you could be tempted by the monstrously powerful, all-wheel-drive MG4 Xpower, an electric hot hatch with 435PS, giving you a 0-62mph time of just 3.8 second. That's supercar territory, but for the price of a regular family car. Remarkable.

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone - or ULEZ - came into effect in central London in April 2019. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year and means most vehicles need to meet new, tighter exhaust emission standards or pay a £12.50 daily charge.

Generally, Euro 6 diesels - mostly those registered after September 2015, although you need to check with TfL as to whether a specific car is actually exempt. It's more relaxed for petrols, which have to be Euro 4 or better. This is typically most cars registered after 2005, some as early as 2001. All hybrids, PHEVs and electric cars are exempt, too.

The newest Ford Fiesta is the best hatchback on the market, and it’s ULEZ exempt. Some older, more affordable models - like the previous-generation Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf - are also exempt. The Toyota Prius is also a great choice.

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